This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
A few weeks into lockdown, VICE UK put a call out to some of our favourite photographers. We wanted submissions for photo essays that reflect the time we're living in – but interesting, imaginative projects, not just "I'm stuck inside, here are some pictures of my cheese-plant".
Luckily, because the photographers we reached out to are all interesting and imaginative people, we got a ton of great ideas back, which we've whittled down to ten final projects. We're running one every week for ten weeks, to be followed by an exhibition you can stage in your very own home (details on that to come).
The fifth project, "Jesus Hot Dogs", is by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, who has kindly explained it for you below.
For this project, I spent a couple of months using an app called Randonautica to dictate the routes of my daily walk. The app uses a quantum number generator to provide a set of random coordinates within a set radius. The idea is for users of the app to visit parts of the world they wouldn’t usually go to.
Randonautica's creators believe there's a paranormal element to the numbers it generates. They suggest that you visualise an "intention" when using the app, to see if you have any noticeable influence on its outcome.
Reddit and TikTok are filled with people who say the intention they set was reflected in the location of the coordinates they were given. Like a person who set their intention to "happiness" and ended up at a giant smiley face made of rocks. Or a woman who set her intention to "good vibes / happiness" and ended up at a bunch of balloons with her name written on them. A group of teenagers in Seattle recently made headlines after finding human remains in a suitcase during a randonaut outing. They'd apparently set their intention to "travel".
Some randonauts believe these coincidences have hidden meanings. Others believe they occur because we’re living in a simulation, and by going to a completely random area you’re testing the boundaries of our fake reality. Some people have reported finding areas that aren’t properly rendered, or glitches in our Matrix.
It would make sense if we were living in a simulation, I suppose. So, so, so much stuff is happening right now. If you were alive a thousand years ago, you’d see maybe two or three major events in your lifetime. Perhaps a slight change to crop irrigation methods, and maybe a passing asteroid that you thought was a God or something. In this year alone, our reality has had about 20,000 major plot twists. A pandemic and a gigantic civil rights movement and natural disasters and reality TV-esque political developments. I can’t say I’d be massively surprised if it all turned out to be the result of a reptilian overlord writers room spicing things up to attract more ratings to our simulation. Kinda like what happened in later seasons of _the X-File_s.
Anyway. I’m not sure my experiences with Randonautica were remarkable enough to suggest I was breaking the Matrix or altering reality with my thoughts. I didn't see any wild coincidences or dead bodies, or even anything that strongly tied into the intentions I set (I tried a bunch of different things, like "yellow" or "scary" or "funny" – nothing seemed to work). I mostly just saw the same kinda stuff I see on my normal walks around the city.
There were a few things that, at a push, I could describe as being slightly weird, I guess. On one of my first trips I saw a hot dog stand called Jesus Hot Dogs. Then, on one of my final trips, I saw one called Mary's Hot Dogs. I also ended up at the same cathedral multiple times, and saw a torn out page from Dianetics, the foundational text of the Church of Scientology, discarded on the ground. I briefly entertained the thought that maybe the universe was telling me I should get into religion.
But I also ended up at a seven-foot-tall statue of the Predator from Predator holding a sign encouraging social distancing, and a man sitting on a sidewalk writing the words, "Break the curse that was put on me, my penis, and my family" in a notebook. So I guess whatever message the universe or our reptilian overlords are trying to communicate to me is a little more complex.
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